Waitangi Day Address: Hon Dr Pita Sharples

Friday 6 February 2009, 3:59PM
By Pita Sharples


 I thank Bishop Kitohu Pikaahu for his invitation to speak to
you today.


Directly opposite the Takapau Town Hall; in the CBD of
Takapau, there is a proud war memorial erected in grateful
memory to those who gave their lives in war.

The memorial carries the following inscription

Sons of this place, let this of you be said
That you who live are worthy of your dead
These gave their lives that you who live may reap
Richer harvest, ere you fall asleep.

Underneath the verse, is the honour roll – the names of
Private Pedersen; Private Matu Wehi; Sergeant Major Ireland;
Corporal Kepa Naera; Corporate Bean; Private Apatu Nepe and
many others.

There is no distinction made between tangata whenua and
tangata tiriti; the names of Maori soldiers sitting
alongside Pakeha. In death, all lives were equal; their
legacy to be that those of us who live on will be worthy of
their sacrifice. They are honoured as they fell, together.

In paying the ultimate price of citizenship, many Maori
thought they were living out the obligations and the duties
that came with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in

In times of peace; just as in times of war; let us never
forget the sacred covenant that our ancestors signed up to
– yours and mine. Can we, today, look at our neighbours,
turn to each other, and know that “you who live are worthy
of your dead”.

The notion of the Treaty being a sacred covenant is not of
course mine alone, as the brave new utterances of the
Minister of Maori Affairs.

The Waitangi Tribunal in their Te Roroa report had this to

The Treaty was not only a “contract or reciprocal
arrangement between two parties” but a “sacred covenant
entered into by the Crown and Maori” where “both parties
have a common moral duty to abide by the Christian and
traditional Maori values it embodies”.

The word covenant comes from the Old Testament, and is
apparently used some 286 times in different contexts.

Some describe it coming from the verb – to perceive, to
determine – the concept of vision. I like that - the
vision of a Treaty.

However the majority of analysis concludes that the concept
of a covenant is the idea of a bond – to bind peoples
together in holy matrimony, or in our case in sacred

So how do we, in 2009, abide by our common moral duty to
this bond between our two peoples – the promise of

Going back to Takapau – as I often wish to – I remember
that whether it be a working bee at the school or a
tangihanga at the marae, Maori and Pakeha would be walking,
working alongside of each other.

Today, I have heard some Pakeha say they are still waiting
for an invitation to go onto a marae; I have been to some
tangi where in a sea of black not one white face is to be

And so I wonder, what has happened to the sacred covenant,
the promise signed by my tipuna and those representing Queen

Is the seal of partnership really a sham, a fraud, a simple

As we look out here yonder across the waters, we remember
the pain of 2004, with the imposition of the foreshore and
seabed legislation.

We remember that Maori were denied due process, to have
their day in court; that the Government took away the right
of hapu and iwi to have their claims over their foreshore
and seabed heard in court.

The Crown assumed a right to extinguish all previous
tikanga, legislative, and common law definitions of our
customary rights and to replace it with a new concept called
"ancestral connection".

Gone – in one panic moment of deliberate exclusion.

Gone – in one stroke of the pen.

Gone - the opportunity for Maori to take their claims to
customary rights to the Maori Land Court

Gone – the possibility of those rights being converted
into property rights under Crown law.

I want to make it quite clear – Maori have never been a
culture dominated by the quest for ownership; the greed for
wealth; the hunt for corporate, material assets.

Our way is an inclusive way – an approach which seeks the
best for all, that places value on the demonstration of
manaakitanga – the capacity to host and care for our

Public access to the foreshore and seabed had always been,
and would have been likely to continue unimpeded, as
inkeeping with our moral duty to uphold the Treaty.

And yet, as the path of history now tells us, the very basis
of our democracy was to be overturned by a Bill which was
rammed through Parliament by a Government desperate to
control race relations.

Five years on then, where are we now?

Have we come to an end of the divide and rule tactics that
broke out when a sheep named Shrek was of more relevance
than 35,000 New Zealanders who joined the hikoi?

We are just facing the consequences of foreshore and seabed
legislation which now pits one tribe against another; when
those who have lost land through the hand of government,
those who have suffered the fate of raupatu, are not equal
with others.

But I am a firm believer in the hope of a new day.

Just as this morning, many of us faced the dawn with our own
karakia for unity throughout our land, we must return to the
promise of the sacred covenant that binds us as peoples.

There is every reason for hope if we are to believe the
Human Rights Commission who earlier this week announced that
three in every five New Zealanders, agree that the Treaty of
Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document and that the
Treaty is for all New Zealanders.


There is every reason for hope when I think of the strength
demonstrated by a new Government, seeking a better
relationship with Maori, through a relationship agreement
with the Maori Party; and a decision to review the Foreshore
and Seabed legislation.

There is reason for hope, when we see the imprint of the
Treaty stitched through our lives, when mana whenua
interests are retained in the Resource Management Act, when
constitutional issues are once more on the agenda.

There is reason for hope, when in the midst of difficult
times, Maori leaders, business people, workers and whanau
gather together at our economic summit last week, and speak
of the need for collaboration, for cooperation, for working

And it is fitting to mark today, as we think of the vision
of those who went before us, and we commemorate the death
of Hone Heke Ngapua, the former MP for Northern Maori, who
died one hundred years ago this week.

In his watch, Mr Heke tried three times to introduce a
Native Rights Bill into Parliament, asking for a
constitution for Maori and protection of rights under Te
Tiriti o Waitangi.

let this of you be said
That you who live are worthy of your dead

The aspiration of Hone Heke Ngapua remains waiting to be

Finally, let us all mark this Waitangi Day, by thinking of
our neighbours, those who we walk through life with,
reaching out to those most in need, living up to the promise
of the Treaty.

When all of us act with integrity to advance our collective
interests for the common good; when we agree to disagree in
ways that respect each other’s rights and dignity; when we
truly believe that whanau ora is a goal worth fighting for,
then perhaps then, we can say, we are fulfilling the promise
of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Press Secretary: Andrew Robb
0 29-482-8494